The harsh jangle of the phone made Phil flinch. He dug it from his pocket and glanced at the caller ID. The number was not a familiar one.
“Hello,” he said in a questioning voice.
A gravelly, electronically distorted voice growled in his ear. “We have your wife.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“You heard me. Listen carefully. Her life depends on it.”
Phil started to say something, but the voice continued.
“Have one million dollars in unmarked bills by midnight tomorrow. I will call back at that time to give you further instructions. Understand?”
“Who is this?” Phil said.
“It doesn’t matter. We have your wife. That’s all you have to know.”
Phil sighed. “Is this some kind of joke? Who the hell are you?”
“No joke. A million dollars.” A pause, then the voice continued. “And no cops. If I see a cop car within a mile she’s a dead woman.”
“Suppose I refuse to pay?”
“Don’t play games with me, mister. Pay up or else.”
“Look, you sorry ass punk,” Phil said. “I’m not giving you a dime. Not a red cent.”
“You…!” the voice started.
Phil cut him off. “It’s your turn to listen. I won’t pay a ransom. Here is what I am telling you to do. Return my wife by midnight tonight or I will double the million dollars and offer it as a reward. Two million dollars for your worthless hide. There are guys out there who would kill their own mother for that kind of money.”
“You don’t know what you’re doing. It’s your wife’s life at stake here.”
Phil laughed into the phone. “I don’t think so. You’d never get away with it. I hope you’re smart enough to know that.”
He looked at his watch. “Have my wife home by midnight tonight and no questions asked. Otherwise, a two million dollar bounty. Are you willing to gamble?”
“Look, buddy, I mean business–”
“So do I, pal. How well do you trust your cronies to keep their mouths shut with two million big ones riding on it? It only takes one, you know, and your life isn’t worth a nickel.”
Phil shifted the phone to his other ear, sat down and waited. No reply.
“I’m hanging up now. I hope you live close enough to get her home by midnight.” Phil took another look at his watch. “That’s six hours. Have a nice day.”
He folded the phone and dropped it in his pocket. He stood up, stretched, and walked into the kitchen where his wife, Marge, was removing a roast from the oven.
“Oh, there you are,” she said. “I was just about to call you to dinner.” She placed the roast on the table. “Who was that on the phone?” she asked.
Phil picked up the carving knife, cut a generous slice of meat and dropped it on the plate. “Wrong number,” he said.
Copyright © 2016 Herschel Cozine. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited.